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More Than 100 Parts for NASA’s Orion Capsule to Be 3-D Printed

More than 100 parts for U.S. space agency NASA’s deep-space capsule Orion will be made by 3-D printers, using technology that experts say will eventually become key to efforts to send humans to Mars.

U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, 3-D printing specialist Stratasys, and engineering firm PADT have developed the parts using new materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and chemical exposure of deep-space missions, Stratasys said Tuesday.

“In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge. If that was to shock the electronics on a space craft, there could be significant damage,” Scott Sevcik, Vice President Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys told Reuters.

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been used for making prototypes across a range of industries for many years, but is being increasingly eyed for scale production.

The technology can help make light-weight parts made of plastics more quickly and cheaply than traditional assembly lines that require major investments into equipment.

“But even more significant is that we have more freedom with the design … parts can look more organic, more skeletal,” Sevcik said.

Stratasys’ partner Lockheed Martin said the use of 3-D printing on the Orion project would also pay off at other parts of its business.

“We look to apply benefits across our programs — missile defense, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products,” said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space.

Orion is part of NASA’s follow-up program to the now-retired space shuttles that will allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth.

The agency’s European counterpart, ESA, has suggested that moon rock and Mars dust could be used to 3-D print structures and tools, which could significantly reduce the cost of future space missions because less material would need to be brought along from Earth.

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More Than 100 Parts for NASA’s Orion Capsule to Be 3-D Printed

More than 100 parts for U.S. space agency NASA’s deep-space capsule Orion will be made by 3-D printers, using technology that experts say will eventually become key to efforts to send humans to Mars.

U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, 3-D printing specialist Stratasys, and engineering firm PADT have developed the parts using new materials that can withstand the extreme temperatures and chemical exposure of deep-space missions, Stratasys said Tuesday.

“In space, for instance, materials will build up a charge. If that was to shock the electronics on a space craft, there could be significant damage,” Scott Sevcik, Vice President Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys told Reuters.

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, has been used for making prototypes across a range of industries for many years, but is being increasingly eyed for scale production.

The technology can help make light-weight parts made of plastics more quickly and cheaply than traditional assembly lines that require major investments into equipment.

“But even more significant is that we have more freedom with the design … parts can look more organic, more skeletal,” Sevcik said.

Stratasys’ partner Lockheed Martin said the use of 3-D printing on the Orion project would also pay off at other parts of its business.

“We look to apply benefits across our programs — missile defense, satellites, planetary probes, especially as we create more and more common products,” said Brian Kaplun, additive manufacturing manager at Lockheed Martin Space.

Orion is part of NASA’s follow-up program to the now-retired space shuttles that will allow astronauts to travel beyond the International Space Station, which flies about 260 miles (420 km) above Earth.

The agency’s European counterpart, ESA, has suggested that moon rock and Mars dust could be used to 3-D print structures and tools, which could significantly reduce the cost of future space missions because less material would need to be brought along from Earth.

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China Responds to Trump Currency Manipulation Charges

China has responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s charges China and Russia are manipulating the value of their currencies.

Monday, Trump tweeted, “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!”

His charge came just days after the U.S. Treasury Department declined to label China and Russia as currency manipulators in its latest report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday the messages coming from the United States are confusing, and China will continue to promote the reform of its currency exchange rate mechanism.

Trump said Russia and China are devaluing their currencies amid a possible new round of sanctions against Russia and a simmering trade war with China.

In general, when a country artificially devalues its currency, its exports become cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration is closely watching China’s currency practices. “That’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely and we’re continuing to monitor it,” she said Monday.

In a semiannual report titled “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States” released Friday, the Treasury Department did not designate China as a currency manipulator, but put it as one of the six countries on a monitoring list. The other five countries on the list are Japan, Korea, India, Germany, and Switzerland. Russia is not on the monitoring list.

The Chinese currency, the Renminbi, has appreciated about three percent against the dollar since the beginning of this year, after strengthening by six percent in 2017.

In the past three years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rate six times to a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, and says it expects to raise the rate two or three more times this year.

Usually, when a country raises its interest rates, the value of its currency rises, making its exports more expensive and less competitive. However, higher U.S. interest rates have not raised the value of the dollar.

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Supreme Court Hearing Case About Online Sales Tax Collection

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether a rule it announced decades ago in a case involving a catalog retailer should still apply in the age of the internet.

The case on Tuesday focuses on businesses’ collection of sales tax on online purchases. Right now, under the decades-old Supreme Court rule, if a business is shipping a product to a state where it doesn’t have an office, warehouse or other physical presence, it doesn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. Customers are generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves, but the vast majority don’t.

States say that as a result of the rule and the growth of internet shopping, they’re losing billions of dollars in tax revenue every year. More than 40 states are asking the Supreme Court to abandon the rule.

Large retailers such as Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. But other online sellers that only have a physical presence in a few states can sidestep charging customers sales tax when they’re shipping to addresses outside those states.

Sellers who defend the current rule say collecting sales tax nationwide is complex and costly, especially for small sellers. That complexity was a concern for the Supreme Court when it announced the physical presence rule in a case involving a catalog retailer in 1967, a rule it reaffirmed in 1992. But states say software has now made collecting sales tax easy.

The case the court is hearing has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016, a law designed to challenge the Supreme Court’s physical presence rule. The law requires out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect and turn over sales tax to the state.

The state wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued Overstock.com, home goods company Wayfair and electronics retailer Newegg. The state has conceded in court, however, that it can only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its current physical presence rule.

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What Does It Take to Make Computer Science Attractive to Girls?

In the United States less than 18 percent of the women who graduate from college major in computer science. The shortage of females with computer skills comes at a time when there are a lot of jobs available in computer science, a field that pays better than most. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee looks at the cultural and other reasons for the shortage of women in this important area — and what one university in Los Angeles is doing to inspire girls.

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Trump Remains in Battle Mode Over Comey Interview

The Trump White House remained in battle mode Monday, one day after former FBI director James Comey described the president as “morally unfit” for office in an interview with ABC News. The administration has mounted a furious counterattack against Comey through Twitter and White House surrogates, as we hear from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone.

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As Drought Keeps Men on the Road, Mauritania’s Pastoralist Women Take Charge

Every year when the pastoralist men in Fatima Demba’s Mauritanian village return from their months-long journey to find pastures and water, the women erupt in wild celebrations.

“We draw henna tattoos on our bodies, we braid our hair, we wear our nicest clothes,” she said, re-adjusting her bright yellow and blue robe.

Yet although she longs for her husband to come home, Demba sees one benefit in his absence.

“I am in charge of everything,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sitting in the shade of a mud-brick hut in Mafoundou village. “Our money, our field of millet — even the village’s borehole is my responsibility.”

Prolonged dry spells in this southern region of Mauritania have depleted grazing land, forcing pastoralists to travel ever longer distances to search for food and water for their herds.

That gives women in these predominantly male-dominated societies newfound power to manage harvests, the family’s remaining animals and household finances, experts say.

“Women pastoralists are the first up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night,” said Aminetou Mint Maouloud, who started the country’s first association of women herders in 2014.

“Whether it’s making butter from cow milk, fetching wood or tending to ill animals, it all comes down to women,” she added.

Worsening Drought

Livestock herding is a traditional way of making a living in West Africa’s Sahel, a semi-arid belt below the Sahara, but herders have become increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity as climate change disrupts rain patterns in the region.

That is particularly true in the impoverished desert nation of Mauritania, according to El Hacen Ould Taleb, head of the Groupement National des Associations Pastorales (GNAP), a charity working with pastoralists.

“Transhumance — the seasonal migration of pastoralists and their herds to neighboring Senegal or Mali — normally starts in October but the rains were so bad last year that people started leaving in August,” he said.

His organization is helping pastoralists find smarter migration routes — with water sources and markets along the way, for example — as part of the British government-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program.

Demba, whose husband has been gone for seven months, says she does not know when he will return.

“He has no choice, he must save our animals,” she said, pausing to take a sip of a glass of green mint tea.

In the meantime, “the family depends on me,” she added.

Under-recognized

Although women play a crucial role in pastoralism, it is rarely acknowledged, according to Mint Maouloud.

“A man will listen to everything his wife whispers on the pillow, but in the morning she won’t get any credit for it,” she said.

To change that, her association has elected a council of eight women from villages around the country. Together they lobby the country’s government on pastoralism issues.

“We tell them where an animal clinic might be needed, or which markets are best for specific kinds of animals,” she explained.

Their suggestions could find an unusually understanding ear.

Since Mauritania’s livestock ministry was created in 2014, both of its leaders have been women.

Vatma Vall Mint Soueina, the current minister, says women seeking political roles is “extremely encouraging” — and that she has seen women grow in economic clout.

“We are seeing women becoming more independent, by virtue of being so active economically,” she said from her office in Nouakchott, the capital.

Financial Independence

In Hadad village, amid stretches of sand and dirt dotted with the odd wilting tree, a dozen women huddle under a large tent covered with striped rugs.

Mariem Mint Lessiyad, a tiny woman with piercing brown eyes, chats energetically to the group, interrupted only by a bleating baby goat.

She leads a cooperative of 100 pastoralist women from nearby villages who buy chickens and sheep to raise and slaughter, selling affordable portions to local families.

“There is less meat going around, so we need to be clever with how we consume it,” she said.

The women buy a sheep for 12,000 Mauritanian ouguiya ($34), for instance, and make a profit of about 2,000 ouguiya ($6) per animal, she said.

They plan to reinvest the surplus in setting up a leather goods business.

“We can’t rely on our husbands to support us financially. They are too poor, especially now that they have to spend more money on keeping our animals healthy,” Mint Lessiyad said.

Mint Maouloud and her association are trying to persuade financial institutions to make it easier for women to get loans, so groups like Mint Lessiyad’s can get ahead.

Access to finance can be problematic, she said, with some banks outright refusing to lend money to women.

“It’s important to make women herders more independent financially, so they don’t rely on their husbands’ generosity or understanding,” she added.

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Toyota to Launch ‘Talking’ Vehicles in US in 2021

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to start selling U.S. vehicles that can talk to each other using short-range wireless technology in 2021, the Japanese automaker said on Monday, potentially preventing thousands of accidents annually.

The U.S. Transportation Department must decide whether to adopt a pending proposal that would require all future vehicles to have the advanced technology.

Toyota hopes to adopt the dedicated short-range communications systems in the United States across most of its lineup by the mid-2020s. Toyota said it hopes that by announcing its plans, other automakers will follow suit.

The Obama administration in December 2016 proposed requiring the technology and giving automakers at least four years to comply. The proposal requires automakers to ensure all vehicles “speak the same language through a standard technology.”

Automakers were granted a block of spectrum in 1999 in the 5.9 GHz band for “vehicle-to-vehicle” and “vehicle to infrastructure” communications and have studied the technology for more than a decade, but it has gone largely unused. Some in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission think it should be opened to other uses.

In 2017, General Motors Co began offering vehicle-to-vehicle technologies on its Cadillac CTS model, but it is currently the only commercially available vehicle with the system.

Talking vehicles, which have been tested in pilot projects and by U.S. carmakers for more than a decade, use dedicated short-range communications to transmit data up to 300 meters, including location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles.

The data is broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, which can identify risks and provide warnings to avoid imminent crashes, especially at intersections.

Toyota has deployed the technology in Japan to more than 100,000 vehicles since 2015.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said last year the regulation could eventually cost between $135 and $300 per new vehicle, or up to $5 billion annually but could prevent up to 600,000 crashes and reduce costs by $71 billion annually when fully deployed. 

NHTSA said last year it has “not made any final decision” on requiring the technology, but no decision is expected before December.

Last year, major automakers, state regulators and others urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to finalize standards for the technology and protect the spectrum that has been reserved, saying there is a need to expand deployment and uses of the traffic safety technology.

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US Senators Offer Legislation Covering Military Action Against Militants

U.S. senators announced long-awaited legislation on Monday to provide congressional authorization for campaigns against militant groups in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, as lawmakers push to take back authority over the military from the White House.

A group led by Senators Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Tim Kaine, a committee Democrat, proposed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would authorize “all necessary and appropriate force” against al-Qaida, the Taliban, Islamic State and associated forces.

Despite coming days after the U.S. bombing of Syria over chemical weapons, the proposed legislation does not authorize military action against any nation state, including Syria.

It also does not set an end date for military action, although it proposes a congressional review every four years.

Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have long argued that they ceded too much authority over the military to both Republican and Democrat presidents — with no time limits — after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress, not the president, has the right to authorize war. But presidents have used AUMFs passed in 2001 for campaigns against al Qaeda and affiliates, and one passed in 2002 for the war in Iraq, to justify a wide range of conflicts since.

Corker said he expected the Foreign Relations Committee to debate and possibly vote on the new AUMF as soon as next week.

It was not immediately clear if the House of Representatives would take up the measure. To become law, it would have to pass the Senate and House and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Noting that Foreign Relations has been trying to pass a new AUMF for years, Corker said it was too soon to discuss the view of the Senate’s Republican leaders.

“I don’t really worry about much beyond having a successful vote in the committee,” he said.

Trump national security aides have pushed back against congressional calls for a new AUMF. However, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, told senators last week it would be useful for lawmakers to weigh in on the military campaign.

The legislation also would require the president to report to Congress on any new military actions and allow lawmakers to vote on whether to reject them.

It would repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs after being in effect for 120 days.

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